Pennsylvania Republicans are slamming Pat Toomey for his impeachment vote — here’s why that’s ironic

Pennsylvania Republicans are slamming Pat Toomey for his impeachment vote — here’s why that’s ironic

In Pennsylvania, Sen. Pat Toomey is feeling the wrath of fellow Republicans for voting "guilty" at former President Donald Trump's second impeachment trial. And the fact that Pennsylvania Republicans are now accusing Toomey of being a RINO (Republican In Name Only) is incredibly ironic in light of the fact that it was Toomey who, more than anyone, drove the late Sen. Arlen Specter out of the Republican Party for his lack of political purity.

On Saturday, February 13, Toomey joined six other Senate Republicans and all 50 Senate Democrats in voting that Trump was guilty of "incitement to insurrection" on January 6, when a violent mob of pro-Trump extremists — including members of the Proud Boys, QAnon supporters and members of various militia groups — stormed the U.S. Capitol Building. Altogether, 57 senators voted "guilty," but that vote fell ten votes short of the two-thirds majority needed for a conviction.

The backlash against Toomey by pro-Trump Republicans in Pennsylvania has been swift. He is already being censured by Republicans in some Pennsylvania counties, and the Pennsylvania Republican Party is planning to meet to discuss whether or not to censure him. Dave Ball, chairman of the Washington County Republican Party, is furious with Toomey and told KDKA-TV — the CBS affiliate in Pittsburgh — "We did not send him there to vote his conscience. We did not send him there to do the right thing or whatever he said he was doing. We sent him there to represent us."

Ball's position is clear: Toomey committed an unforgivable sin by voting against Trump. Joe Scarborough, the Never Trump conservative and former GOP congressman who hosts "Morning Joe" on MSNBC, slammed Ball during a February 16 broadcast and said, "It sounded like an old apparatchiks out of the Soviet Union."

Ball's Orwellian statement that Toomey has no right to "vote his conscience" or "do the right thing" does have a Soviet Union-like ring to it and underscores the cultish grip that Trump continues to have on much of the Republican Party. Even someone as hard-right as Toomey now fits the definition of a RINO in the minds of Ball and others in the Trump cult. Toomey, as Ball and other Trump devotees sees it, now fails the GOP purity test — and ironically, it was Toomey himself who once subjected Arlen Specter to such a test.

For decades, Specter was a fixture in the U.S. Senate and was held up as a bridge between Philadelphia Democrats and Republicans in Harrisburg and Washington, D.C. Specter leaned conservative, but he wasn't far-right and received a lot of votes in Philly — a city so deep blue that it hasn't had a Republican mayor since the early 1950s. But as Toomey saw it, Specter was too moderate for the Republican Party; he was pro-choice on the abortion issue, and he sometimes voted with Democrats. So, in 2004, Toomey aggressively challenged Specter in a Republican senatorial primary. Then-President George W. Bush and far-right then-Sen. Rick Santorum supported Specter over Toomey, who lost that primary — and Specter was reelected when he defeated Democrat Joe Hoeffel in the general election.

But six years later, in 2010, Toomey challenged Specter again. Fearing that Toomey would win the GOP nomination — which he ultimately did — Specter became a Democrat only to lose to Joe Sestak in a Democratic primary. Then, Toomey defeated Sestak in the general election. Specter was 82 when he died of cancer in 2012.

Toomey won a second term in 2016, narrowly defeating Democratic nominee Katie McGinty. However, the hard-right senator has announced that he will not be seeking reelection in 2022. Clearly, he is uncomfortable with the fact that unquestioning loyalty to Trump has become a litmus test in the Republican Party.

But Toomey was not above litmus tests or purity tests when he challenged Specter in 2004 or 2010. Toomey made it abundantly clearly that there was no place for so-called "RINOs" in the Republican Party — and now, Toomey himself is being called a RINO for failing the type of purity test he once championed.

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